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Gun Club, Bike Club Forge An Unlikely Partnership

The White Salmon Bike Park has had a rough past couple of months.

The mountain bike park, which is currently being built on city land located between Jewett Creek and Tohomish Street, got underway in earnest last October with the help of volunteers, who carved trails through the wooded hillside under the direction of a certified International Mountain Biking Association trail builder. Construction on the park moved quickly throughout the fall as volunteers hurried to complete as many feet of trails as possible before the winter rains came.

Work did slow down in the winter, but not necessarily because of the weather. In February, Tohomish Street resident Susan Benedict raised concerns with the Department of Ecology and the city of White Salmon about the bike park’s construction, claiming The Spoke Club, the nonprofit formed specifically to manage the park, did not properly consider the environmental impacts of the project. As a result, the city had to perform a State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) environmental checklist and eventually issued a stop work order to The Spoke Club. Adding insult to injury, vandals hit the bike park in late February, throwing old tires and other debris down the hill and into Jewett Creek after volunteers had spent so much time cleaning the area up.

Scott Hulbert, one of the founders of The Spoke Club, says all of that is now in the past. The tires have been cleaned up, the bike park passed its SEPA with minimal headaches, the city lifted its stop work order Friday before last, and the bike park is getting support from an unlikely source: the Mt. Adams Fish and Game Association (MAFGA).

Why unlikely? MAFGA, commonly referred to by many as “the gun club,” is less than thrilled that a bike park geared primarily toward young riders will be abutting its property, which includes indoor and outdoor shooting ranges.

“The board doesn’t feel it’s a good place [for a bike park],” said Matt Riley, who heads MAFGA’s board of directors. “It’s a liability issue.”

Instead of impeding the park’s progress though, MAFGA has been working with The Spoke Club to make sure both groups have their needs met.

“They have a lot of time and energy invested in [the park] and it’s too late to say, ’Hey, go away,’” Riley explained.

To help complete the project, MAFGA has offered up the use of its private road (Park Street) to The Spoke Club so that heavy machinery can access and work on a section of the park that would otherwise be extremely difficult to reach.

In turn, The Spoke Club will be building a fence at the eastern end of the park to keep riders from wandering onto MAFGA property — not for purposes of exclusivity, but for safety. Hulbert also said there will be information promoting MAFGA on kiosks located at the entrances of the bike park so riders will know what all the gunfire is about.

“We want people to know that it’s not just some random, unorganized people shooting down there,” he said. “This is an organized group with a lot of history.”

How each organization formed is one thing the two organizations have in common and share a mutual respect for. MAFGA was established in 1939 and was built from the ground up by volunteers on land that was donated to the organization by the Mansfield family, according to Riley. The Spoke Club and the bike park also owe much of their existence to volunteers as well as the city of White Salmon, which allowed the club to use city land for the park.

Before a bike park work party was held on April 27, Hulbert estimated about 90 percent of the park was completed. He said he plans to keep up the relationship with MAFGA long after the bike park is finished though, and noted “there’s obviously potential for issues.”

John Deo, who sits on MAFGA’s board of directors with Riley, was confident things would work out.

“The only reason it won’t work is if we won’t work with them and they won’t work with us,” he said.

Riley agreed.

“I told Scott [Hulbert] that if there’s ever any issue to come over and we’ll have a case of beer ready,” he said with a laugh.

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